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A New Era: The Iranian Navy, Operational Expansion, and Soft Power

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The Islamic Republic of Iran Navy (IRIN) has embarked on a new initiative to transform its maritime operations. These changes are occurring at a time when the heightened focus on the Indian Ocean as a vital avenue for the transport of commerce and precious natural resources evokes serious debate over the future of maritime security in the region. Iran's new operational scheme incorporates a geographic reassignment with its Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGCN) counterpart, which expands the IRIN footprint across the vast Indian Ocean. This new paradigm represents the most significant change to Iranian naval operations since the foundation of the IRGCN in the mid-1980s. The prospect of a "blue water" Iranian naval force could further intensify tensions within a region already coloured by uncertainty and instability. Iranian naval operational expansion may also permit Iran to cultivate soft power options and enable Tehran to form relationships with nations across the periphery of the Indian Ocean. The IRIN, however, may face some institutional challenges, including the procurement of sufficient ships to replace an ageing fleet, which may impede Tehran's goal of greater presence across the Indian Ocean commons.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2013-05-01

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  • The St Antony's International Review (STAIR) is the only peer-reviewed journal of international affairs at the University of Oxford. Set up by graduate students of St Antony's College in 2005, the Review has carved out a distinctive niche as a cross-disciplinary outlet for research on the most pressing contemporary global issues, providing a forum in which emerging scholars can publish their work alongside established academics and policymakers. Past contributors include Robert O. Keohane, James N. Rosenau, and Alfred Stepan.
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